Connecticut “schools of choice” are a vehicle for discrimination

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Fellow commentator and public school Advocate Wendy Lecker’s latest column in the Stamford Advocate examines CT Voices for Children’s new research report which is entitled, ”Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs.”  The study found that charter schools and other “choice schools” systematically prevent equal access to some of the state’s neediest students.

As Wendy Lecker reports,

Of special concern, the report found that Connecticut charter schools are “hypersegregated” — at least 90 percent minority. Furthermore, the authors revealed that charters grossly underserve English Language Learners (`ELL”) and students with disabilities.

Connecticut Voices noted that charters have a financial incentive to exclude ELL students. Unlike the cost of special education services, which is borne by the district where a charter school student lives, charter schools must pay for ELL programs and services. If, however, a charter has fewer than 20 ELL students, it is not required to provide an ELL program.

Connecticut’s rating system, which judges and sanctions schools based on standardized tests scores, provides more reasons to exclude. ELL students and students with disabilities tend to score lower on standardized tests, therefore charter schools look higher performing when they do not have either subgroup.

A traditional public school would never be able to get away with excluding any child in their district. Such a move would be illegal. However, the state enables the charter schools’ exclusionary behavior. Charters are not required to have specific diversity targets in enrollment. Moreover, while in theory a charter can be revoked if a charter school does not serve enough ELL or students with disabilities, no charter school has ever suffered that fate. With an Education Commissioner who is a founder of one of the worst offending charter chains, charters are safe to continue their exclusionary practices.

The fact that these publically funded “choice schools” have become a vehicle to further segregate our society undermines the very essence of our public education system.

As Wendy Lecker explains,

The idea of equity for all was the driving force behind the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that “I am never what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.

“Lyndon Johnson’s motto was “doing the greatest good for the greatest number.”

The principles of communal good underpinned Connecticut’s commitment to school integration. Connecticut’s Supreme Court deemed that having children of different backgrounds learn together is vital “to gain the understanding and mutual respect necessary for the cohesion of our society.” The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall maintained: “Unless our children learn together, there is little hope that our people will learn to live together.”

Armed with the evidence provided by the new CT Voices for Children Report, Wendy Lecker concludes,

As voters, we have a choice. We can recommit ourselves to school integration, realizing that instilling in our children a sense of community is the key to our cohesion as a democratic state. Or, we can allow politicians to school our children in avoidance, and risk becoming like the fractious and unstable nations we see in the world around us.

Be sure to read Wendy Lecker entire column which can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Some-needy-students-frozen-out-of-5413855.php

You can read and download the CT Voices for Children report at: http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/choice-watch-diversity-and-access-connecticuts-school-choice-programs.

Corporate Education Reform Industry group starts radio campaign in support of new charter schools

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Surprise, surprise… An out-of-State charter school advocacy group has started an advertising campaign to support the Malloy administration’s decision to give Steve Perry his own privately run, but taxpayer funded, charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a reports from the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc., a charter school advocacy group based in New York, has begun a Connecticut radio advertising campaign in support of the Malloy administration’s decision to approve two new charter schools in Bridgeport.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is running the radio spots to defend Commissioner Stefan Pryor and State Board of Education’s underhanded effort to approve the proposed charter schools.  One of the charter schools will be run by the out-of-state Great Oaks charter school chain while the other is Steve Perry’s Capitol Preparatory Harbor school.

The advocacy and lobbying group is also behind the multi-million dollar advertising campaign to undermine New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to make New York City’s public schools a high priority compared to the Bloomberg administration’s approach that diverted tens of millions in public resources away from the public schools and to the city’s privately run charter schools. In New York, the Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. campaign pushed to allow privately run charter schools virtually unlimited and free access to public school space.    

The group’s New York advertising campaign is designed to help New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Like Malloy, Cuomo has received more than $100,000 in campaign donations from charter-school supporters in recent months.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. was formed by corporate education reform industry allies in 2011 and has recently expanded into Connecticut. Four of the organization’s five founding board members are Wall Street hedge fund executives.  The group also shares space in New York City with the New York chapter of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Inc.

As one would expect, the corporate education reform industry has been dumping millions of dollars into Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.

Among its biggest donors is the Walton Family Foundation (the Wal-Mart Family’s Foundation) which has given the charter school group more than $700,000 in start-up funds.  The organization has also received at least $200,000 from the Eli Broad Foundation during that same period.

Here in Connecticut, the Wal-Mart Political Action Committee gave Governor Malloy’s political operation a check for $5,000 and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad chipped in another $8,000 for Malloy.  

One of the other foundations that have given Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is none other than the Ray Dalio Family Foundation.

As Forbes Magazine explains, Ray Dalio is the “king of the rich hedge fund industry.”  Forbes adds that Dalio, “lords over the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, with about $150 billion in assets.”

Ray Dalio is the individual who was paid $2.3 billion last year.

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates is the company that Governor Dan Malloy rewarded with more than $120 million in Connecticut taxpayer funded tax breaks in return for moving Bridgewater’s “world headquarters” from Westport to Stamford.

In addition to giving money to the charter school advocacy group now running advertisements in Connecticut, Dalio’s foundation is also a major donor to Teach for America.

For public school teachers, parents and advocates it is becoming even clear is that with the 2014 gubernatorial election less than seven months away, Dannel “Dan” Malloy is using every opportunity to show his unending support for expanding charter schools at the expense of Connecticut’s public schools.

You can also read more about this story at CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/up-next-charter-group-that-battled-nyc-mayor-comes-to-ct/

Malloy’s public school privatization effort hits Stamford

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Malloy administration gives Bronx charter school chain a green-light to “save” Stamford.

The Malloy administration’s extraordinary efforts to increase the number of charter schools and privatize even more of the state’s public education system took a giant leap forward at the last State Board of Education meeting.

In a farce that included Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just happening to have a written resolution approving four new charters rather than the promised two, the corporate education reform industry drive to undermine Connecticut’s public schools surged forward.

Malloy’s “hometown” of Stamford was one of the latest victims in the inappropriate and under-handed strategy that has been displayed by Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education.

When it comes to “education reform” the Malloy administration’s watchwords seems to be, “grab the candy before you are thrown out of the shop.”

The following piece was written by Stamford Board of Education members Jackie Heftman and Polly Rauh.  It was first published in last Friday’s Stamford Advocate.

Democracy loses in charter school fight

On April 2, we went to a show trial in Hartford. Actually it was a meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE). Sitting in the audience and later watching it on CT-N, we were reminded of the trials held in places with authoritarian dictatorships, where the outcome is decided long before the meeting begins.

The resolution that the SBOE was considering was for one more state charter school in New Haven and Bridgeport. The public agenda listed a discussion item of an additional charter school in Stamford and one more for Bridgeport. We were there to speak in opposition to another state charter school in Stamford. The Stamford Board of Education had passed a resolution at its March meeting not supporting the charter school application.

The SBOE approved the two charters in New Haven and Bridgeport, and then Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor magically produced a resolution for approval of another charter school in Bridgeport and Stamford. Both were unanimously approved. Indeed a sad day for democracy in Connecticut.

Some of the things that were put on the record were simply wrong and some were outright lies, and they should not go undisputed. If Stamford is going to be dragged into a fight over a charter school, we should begin with an understanding of the facts.

Pryor was adamant that the funding for charter schools is a separate stream of money and does not take funding away from the traditional public schools. In fact he proudly asserted that more money has been allocated to the Alliance Districts. Alliance Districts are the 30 lowest performing districts in the state. Stamford, New Haven and Bridgeport are Alliance Districts. For Stamford the allocated amount is less than $3 million dollars which is less than 1 percent of our budget. Is he kidding? What is there to be proud of? That money will get eaten up in additional transportation and special education costs for the new charter school.

The money that comes to cities and towns to help fund public schools is based on an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula which is grossly underfunded to the tune of almost $700 million dollars this year.

[A Wait, What? note to readers:  According to the CCEJF school funding lawsuit and other experts, Connecticut’s school funding formula is actually $1.5 to $2 billion underfunded leaving an unfair and disproportionate burden on local property tax payers and severely limiting resource in many Connecticut school districts].

But there seems to be money to fund state charter schools. Between Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2015, $233 million has been set aside to fund state charter schools. That money could have been added to the ECS stream bringing it closer to what the formula requires.

The second sad occurrence that afternoon was when Charlene Reid, head of the state charter school that wants to open here, told the SBOE that in her meetings with Stamford BOE members over the past couple of months it was suggested that because she was black she was incapable of writing the application. She also said she was accused of being a racist because she wants to open a segregated school and had experienced “micro aggression” during her time in Stamford.

We have neither met Ms. Reid nor been asked to attend a meeting with her and could find only one board member who did meet with her. No one who spoke at the public hearing in Stamford maligned Ms. Reid. Our opposition to the charter school has never been personal. She also said parents were “petrified” to publicly state their support, but when parents had the opportunity to speak at the SBOE meeting, where there is obvious support for charter schools, no one spoke. No one from Stamford said they wanted this option for their children. In fact Stamford Parent Teacher Council members came to the SBOE meeting with more than 700 petition signatures in opposition to the charter school.

Ms. Reid accused unnamed Stamford officials of having no plan to address inequities and only wanting to ignore the problem. That flies in the face of our Alliance District Improvement Plan, approved by the SBOE, which directly addresses the closing of the achievement gap. In fact in the past six years the achievement gap in the Stamford Public Schools has been reduced by 13.5 percent. Ms. Reid says the Bronx Charter School for Excellence has closed the achievement gap for all subgroups. The achievement gap is the difference between the standardized test scores for White students vs. Black and Hispanic students.

Her claim that the gap has been closed at her school is meaningless when there are no white students attending. She can claim that she has boosted the achievement of her students, but she can’t claim she has closed the achievement gap. She also belittled Stamford Superintendent Winifred Hamilton’s commitment to diversity in spite of the fact that our schools are balanced to within 10 percent of the district average, 31 percent of our administrators are minorities and we are constantly working to increase our minority teaching staff. It is obvious that she hasn’t visited any of our schools. Ms. Reid told the SBOE that she is looking forward to a collaborative relationship with SPS and our superintendent! Really?

Ms. Reid acknowledged that her school in the Bronx is 100 percent minority and 85 percent economically disadvantaged and this is the model she would bring to Stamford. If for no other reasons, we oppose this charter school coming to Stamford.

We care about all public school students receiving a high quality education in a diverse setting of students of all colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. All Stamford students deserve no less.

Major new study finds Connecticut Charter Schools discriminate

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Connecticut Voices for Children, the New-Haven based, nationally recognized policy research organization has issued a major new report entitled, “Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs.”

The CT Voices report is the most extensive, independent study that has been conducted about the performance of charter schools, magnet schools and other school choices options in Connecticut.

While the entire report is a “MUST READ” for those following the “school choice” debate, it is an especially important addition to the debate for those concerned about the Malloy administration’s commitment to expanding the number of charter schools in Connecticut and their on-going privatization efforts to turn public schools over to private charter school operators.

Among the key findings from the CT Voices study is that Connecticut’s Charter Schools are more segregated, systematically discriminate against Latinos and English Language Learners and fail to recruit, retain and serve their fair share of students who require special education services.

As the CT Voices study concludes,

Charter schools are typically hypersegregated by race/ethnicity and, in Connecticut’s four largest cities, actually offer students, on average, a learning environment that is more or equally segregated by race and ethnicity than local public schools.

Although Charter Schools serve just over 1% of the public school students in Connecticut, these privately run, publically funded schools have been receiving additional funds at a far greater rate than traditional public schools.

Governor Malloy and his administration are engaged in an unprecedented effort to increase the number of charter schools operating in the state.

However, the new CT Voices report re-confirms that when it comes to equity and fairness, the rush to divert public resources away from public schools and to charter schools is taking Connecticut in exactly the wrong direction when it comes to reducing racial isolation and providing quality services to students with special needs and those who require additional English language programs.

For example, according to the new report,

In 2011-12, a majority of magnet schools and technical schools were “integrated,” as measured by the standard set forth in the 2008 settlement agreement of the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case: a school with a student body composed of between 25% and 75% minority students…In contrast, only 18% of charter schools met the Sheff standard. The majority of charter schools were instead “hypersegregated,” with a student body composed of more than 90% minority students…”

The failure of charter schools to provide equal opportunity to students is even starker when it comes to their unwillingness to serve bi-lingual students, students who need additional English language services or students with special education needs.

When it comes to educating English Language Learners, the new study finds that 76% of all charter schools have substantially lower enrollment of ELL students then the community they are supposed to be serving.

The failure of charter schools to serve students with special education needs is equally troubling.  Although state law requires that Charter Schools “attract, enroll, and retain” children with disabilities, the report found that many charter schools are simply failing to fulfill this legal requirement.

The new report from Connecticut Voices for Children also sheds a powerful light on Connecticut’s magnet schools and the state’s technical high school system.

You can find the full CT Voices report here: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/edu14choicewatchfull.pdf

You can also find a New Haven Independent news article about the report here: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/ct_voices_for_children_report/

And a CT News Junkie report about the report here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/report_claims_choice_schools_are_hyper-segregated/

NEWS FLASH: Its official – choice means Friendship Charter School or nothing

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In a brazen effort to hand over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools of Washington D.C. and divert more scarce public funds to another out-of-state charter school management company, a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education has suddenly been called for tomorrow to approve a resolution “requesting” that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, use his authority to simply hand Clark Elementary over to Friendship Charter Schools without any further debate or discussion.

As reported in multiple blog posts here at Wait, What?, this extraordinary abuse of power has been playing out for the last few months.

The Clark School “turnaround” process has suddenly became a case study in how the corporate education reform industry really works.

And in this case, the concept of “school choice” has been corrupted to mean that Clark School parents, teachers and the greater community must accept Friendship Charter School as their new master or Commissioner Stefan Pryor will withhold $1.5 million that was allocated to improve the neighborhood school.

Of course, a large chunk of that “new” money will be used to pay for the “services” of Friendship Charter School.

Regardless of the political spin coming from the corporate education reformers, the truth is as follows;

When Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community were told that their school was going to be handed over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor…

The Clark parents said NO! – “We want Choices.”

And the Achievement First, Inc. proposal was defeated.

In response to this development, Commissioner Pryor, his senior staff, and high-ranking administrators for the Hartford School System decided that the new “choice” would be Friendship Charter Schools, a Washington D.C. based charter school management company.

Although the Clark parents continued to say – “We want Choices,” those in power decided “choice” is not the selection of multiple options but simply a decision of Friendship Charter School or nothing.

As internal emails, documents and first hand reports reveal, a strategy was developed by Pryor’s State Department of Education, Hartford Board of Education administrators and corporate education reform organizations to “persuade”  the Clark parents that handing their school over to Friendship was effectively their only choice.

To implement this political strategy of deception, state and city officials used a combination of public and private funds to pay for a campaign that was orchestrated and coordinated by a series of education reform groups including Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (H.A.R.T) and Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

The gory details will continue to leak out in the coming days, but the strategy reached its zenith today when these education reform groups handed out flyers instructing Clark Parents to meet late tomorrow afternoon at that Clark School, don tee-shirts and march to the Hartford Board of Education meeting to demand the Hartford Board of Education approve Friendship before the state withdraws the $1.5 million needed to help improve their school.

Gone is the discussion of providing Clark School parents with the range of choices they wanted to hear about.

Last week’s site visit to New York City that would have allowed Clark’s parents to examine other options was cancelled and will now not be rescheduled.

The group’s planned site visit to Cincinnati to look at other school options has suddenly disappeared, as well.

And the Clark School Governance Committee’s vote in favor of seeking multiple options has been “re-interpreted” as a vote for Friendship Charter School.

Check back for additional details as they become available…

But as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, the only thing that stands between them and control of another local Connecticut neighborhood school, its students and millions in taxpayer money that comes with it is the following resolution that will be taken up tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. by the Hartford Board of Education.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT: the Board hereby requests that the Commissioner exercise his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develop and impose a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark; and

BE IT THEREFORE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT: if the Commissioner exercises his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develops and imposes a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark then the Board will negotiate the financial impact of the plan with the exclusive bargaining units for Clark certified employees in accordance with Connecticut General Statute § 10-153S(c).

RECOMMENDATION That the Hartford Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to approve the resolution requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee.

You can also read more about this developing issue at the Real Hartford Blog – http://www.realhartford.org/2014/04/07/boe-to-vote-on-edu-colonialism-at-clark-school/

Clark Elementary School parents played like puppets

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As Wait, What? readers will recall, first came the effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company formed by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

When parents, teachers and the Hartford Federation of Teachers fought back, the backroom deal between Pryor, his State Department of Education staff, out-going Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and some of her senior staff collapsed.

But not to be outdone, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his aides refocused their Clark Elementary School privatization effort, this time looking to hand the Hartford Public School over to a Washington D.C. based charter school company known as Friendship Charter Schools.

A batch of internal emails recently acquired by Wait, What? reveals just how deep the conspiracy to play Clark’s parents goes.

The emails paint a disgusting and potentially even illegal effort to give a private company a no-bid contract to run a Connecticut public school, all at taxpayer expense.

The emails reveal that the fix was in for the Clark Elementary School and its students, parents and teachers long before anyone from Clark was involved in the process.

From the very beginning of their effort, Connecticut State Department of Education employee, Andrew Ferguson, has served as Pryor’s point person in the widespread effort to force Clark to “accept” Friendship Charter School Company as their new masters.

The emails also make clear that the strategy moved forward with the help of a number of senior Hartford Board of Education employees, including Superintendent Kishimoto.

On February 13, 2014, long before the Clark School Turnaround Committee had even begun the extensive process of assessing what would be the best solution to improve academic performance at their school, Andrew Ferguson and Oliver Barton, a Portfolio Director for the Hartford Board of Education, were already working on how best to insert Friendship Charter Schools successfully into the final plan.

Concerning an upcoming forum, Andrew Ferguson wrote,

“Do you want Friendship to attend?”

To which the City of Hartford’s Oliver Barton responded,

 “I don’t think we’re there yet….If we get enough of the committee to a readiness level, we could have them up to discuss how a partnership would actually work.

At the same time, investigative blogs published on Wait, What? started to shine a light on the growing conspiracy.  NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (February 10, 2014) and Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School (Feb 13, 2014).

In response to the 2nd Wait, What? post,  Kevin McCaskill, the Hartford Board of Education’s Director of School Design and Programming, wrote to Oliver Barton warning him,

“Jonathan Pelto again on the blog – talking about the CSDE’s attempts to privitize.”

To which Oliver Barton responded,

“Clark parents spoke with Vanessa at courant to disput blog claim that the model is predecided.  Should be in tomorrow, wed.” (Spelling mistakes are original parts of email)

Fears that the strategy wasn’t taking shape fast enough appeared just two weeks later when, on February 26, 2014, Paul Holzer, the Executive Director of Achieve Hartford! wrote to Oliver Barton and Kevin McCaskill.

Achieve Hartford! is the corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group dedicated to privatizing Hartford’s schools and implementing the corporate education reform industry’s political agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

In his email to the two Hartford Board of Education employees, Achieve Hartford’s Paul Holzer wrote,

“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT…”

And Holzer added,

“I just need to know from the District’s perspective how this is playing out against the game plan, so to speak.”

Taken in total, the various emails back and forth between the Malloy administration, the Hartford Board of Education employees, Friendship Charter School and outside education reform advocacy groups explain how hard these “public” officials have been working to force the Clark School community to accept their “destiny” of seeing their school handed over to a private corporation named Friendship Charter Schools.

The communications also reveal an utter disdain and disregard for Hartford’s teachers and especially for the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

And although the process raises serious ethical and legal questions about state and local public officials using their positions to steer public dollars to private corporations, the Malloy administration clearly believes that it has “won” the battle.

A sign of their arrogant sense of accomplishment could be seen just this week.  Although the future of Clark Elementary School wasn’t even on the recent State Board of Education’s agenda, a group of Clark Parents were persuaded to sign up and spoke “in favor” of the so-called “Friendship Charter School Partnership,” despite the fact that just a week earlier Friendship Charter had withdrawn their proposal to run Clark Elementary.

This latest move by Pryor, Hartford, Achieve Hartford! and Friendship Charter Schools is nothing short of a late breaking effort to isolate and undermine the role the Clark’s teachers and the guaranteed role that the Hartford Federation of Teachers is supposed to play in the turnaround process.

This package of emails is yet another reminder of just how committed the Malloy administration has become in their effort to silence parents, teachers and public school advocates as part of their ongoing effort to push through their corporate education reform industry agenda.

Sarah Darer Littman’s MUST READ – “A Discouraging Day for Democracy and Education.”

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In her latest CT News Junkie column, Sarah Darer Littman confronts those that are celebrating their latest efforts to buy up the public policy making process at the federal and state level.

In Washington it was the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the McCutcheon v. FEC case that removes the limit on the amount of money individuals can give to all political campaigns.

In Hartford it was Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education and their ongoing efforts to undermine, demean and demoralize public education while promoting Malloy’s charter school privatization scheme.

Upon watching Malloy’s political appointees in action at the State Board of Education meeting, Sarah Darer Littman concludes,

What we witnessed Wednesday is called “a done deal.” Although both the Courant and the CT Post reported the day before the hearing that Commissioner Stefan Pryor was only going to recommend approving two of proposed charters, once the crowds from Bridgeport and Stamford left, Charles Jaskiewicz asked, “Why are we delaying the opportunity to front-load success? . . . My feeling is all these schools should be approved.” Taylor announced that Pryor just “happened” to have a resolution to approve the two additional schools already prepared.

And thus, the appointed state Board of Education, against the expressed votes of two elected city school boards and with ample evidence of the negative financial impact to the existing public schools in the cities involved, voted to approve these new charter schools.

American democracy is dying and despite their press releases to the contrary, Connecticut Democrats are aiding and abetting its demise as surely as the Republicans who brought the court case of McCutcheon vs. FEC. It will come back to haunt them in November.

As Littman makes clear, public policy has become a commodity to be bought and sold.  Big donors are more than willing to write out the campaign checks and many of our elected and appointed officials are more than happy to do their bidding.

The proof of this corrupt system can be seen right here in Connecticut.

Do take the time to read Sarah Darer Littman’s entire column at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/a_discouraging_day_for_democracy_and_education/

State Board of Education is tone-deaf to needs of the children

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Wendy Lecker, fellow public school advocates and columnist has done it again!

In here latest MUST READ column published in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and other Hearst media outlets, Wendy shines the light of truth on the Malloy administration’s unrelenting effort to undermine and privatize Connecticut public education system.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his political appointees have pushed their corporate education reform agenda.

While Malloy’s effort has paid off in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fund his political aspirations, the blood money has come at the cost of our state’s students, teachers, parents and public schools.

As Wendy Lecker writes, the Malloy anti-public education effort was in full-swing this week as the “Connecticut State Board of Education demonstrated how not to make public policy.”

In a piece entitled “State board tone-deaf to needs of the child,” Wendy explains,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s appointed board trampled local control and democracy by ramming through resolutions that completely disregarded the parents, teachers and communities impacted by their decisions.

Last month, Republican legislators forced a public hearing on legislation calling for a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards until the state could assess the implementation’s financial and educational impact.

Ninety-five percent of parents submitting testimony favored a moratorium on the Common Core, as did 91 percent of teachers, 95 percent of citizens not identifying as parents or teachers and 87.5 percent of local elected officials.

Unfazed by the outpouring of concern, the State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution demanding the immediate implementation of the Common Core and its tests.

In even more arrogant disregard for Connecticut communities, the board approved four new charter schools: Great Oaks Charter and Capital Harbor Prep Charter in Bridgeport, the Booker T. Washington Charter in New Haven and the Stamford Charter School for Excellence in Stamford.

Wendy Lecker adds,

“…the state will divert $85 million dollars over the next few years to charter schools in Bridgeport that serve only 1,600 children. The new charters would drain more than $13 million more from the public schools.

Bridgeport’s board of education and elected parent’s council passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on all charter schools in their city.

These local officials and citizens explained the duty to serve all children in Bridgeport. They noted the flaws in the charter applications, including the serious questions about the companies’ ability to serve students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

Yet the tone-deaf state board voted to force two more charter schools on Bridgeport.

The State Board of Education’s approval of a new charter school in Stamford was equally appalling.

Stamford’s elected board of education voted to oppose the Stamford charter application.

Stamford parents started a petition to oppose the charter school which garnered more than 800 signatures in 48 hours. The Bronx charter school company had a petition up for a month trying to drum up support for the charter, but could only muster 17 signatures.

At the SBE meeting, Stamford officials and parents were united in explaining that Stamford’s integrated schools have closed the achievement gap by double digits in the last seven years. By contrast, the Bronx charter operator has a large and growing achievement gap in its school and offered nothing new to Stamford. In fact, when asked by Stamford’s superintendent why she chose this city, the Bronx operator was unable to respond.

Despite the evidence, the state board voted to give the charter school company more than $4 million for a school of only 392 students while leaving Stamford’s 16,000 public school students underfunded.

Wendy Lecker concludes her column with,

As Bridgeport resident and former NAACP president Carolyn Nah testified, “all children” does not just mean all children in charter schools — it means all public school students. Something is wrong when political appointees in Hartford favor a handful of students, trampling the decisions of democratically elected representatives and parents who are in our schools every day, working to protect the educational interest of every child.

Please take the time to go read the full column and send it to families and friends by going to: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-State-board-tone-deaf-to-needs-of-the-5378068.php

 

Malloy’s new charter schools – 1st up the Booker T. Washington Charter School in New Haven

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Time to review the facts surrounding Malloy’s new charter schools…

Number #1: The Booker T. Washington Charter School.

The Booker T. Washington School may very well be Connecticut’s first foray into using public funds to pay for what appears to be a religiously connected school.  (We’ll pretend for a moment that such a move is not unconstitutional).

According to the charter school application approved by Malloy’s State Board of Education yesterday, there is a rather unseemly and bizarre connection between the Booker T. Washington Charter School, the charter school management company known as Jumoke/FUSE Inc. and the Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

The application begins with the statement,

“The Booker T. Washington Academy is the brainchild of Reverend Eldren D. Morrison, Pastor of Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut (“Varick Memorial”)

The Governing Board of Directors for the Booker T. Washington Academy includes the following individuals,

  • Reverend Eldren D. Morrison: Founder of Booker T. Washington Academy, Pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut and New Haven, Community Leader
  • Jesse Phillips: Chief of Staff to Rev. Morrison at Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, CT, and Community Economic Advisor)
  • Stacia Morrison: Academic Assistant, Bridgeport Public Schools and First Lady of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut).

And on the next page of the application its states,  “Stacia Morrison is currently a member of the Board of Directors. She intends to apply for a staff position with the Academy and, if hired, will resign from the Board.”

The cost to Connecticut taxpayers to get the Booker T. Washington Charter School up and running over the next five years will exceed $27 million.

In addition, the taxpayers of New Haven will continue to pay for the transportation costs and special education costs of students attending the privately run Booker T. Washington Charter School.

A $27 million dollar public expenditure for the “brainchild” of a church minister and the school’s governing board will include the minister, his assistant and his wife … at least until she gets a  job at the school at which time she will resign her position on the governing board.

Interestingly no one on the State Board of Education even pressed the issue of the association between the school and a church or the notion that the founder’s wife will serve on the Board of Directors until she gets a state-funded job at the school.

For more read Wait, What? Post: Merging Church and State – The Booker T. Washington Charter School

 

The second rather unseemly and bizarre issue is that the new Booker T. Washington Charter School will be run by a charter school management company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc.

Just two years ago there was nothing even called FUSE Inc. and now the charter school management company has a senior corporate officer sitting on the Connecticut State Board of Education, was just approved to run its fourth school in Connecticut and it still had time to take over management of a public school 1,500 miles away in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

FUSE Inc. is better known as Jumoke Academy Inc.  Their initial charter school is in Hartford and is called the Jumoke Academy.

Like all charter schools in Connecticut, the Jumoke Academy has refused to take its fair share of English language learners or students with special education needs.

With the passage of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” law in 2012, Stefan Pryor used his new-found power to take over Hartford’s Milner Elementary School and give it to Jumoke Academy to manage via a no bid contract.

The agreement was struck so quickly that the state and Jumoke didn’t even have a signed contract until well into the new school year.

The deal was particularly strange since the Jumoke Academy had never had a non-English speaking student in its six-year history and yet was given control of Milner Elementary, a school in which approximately 40 percent of students didn’t speak English or went home to households in which English was not the primary language.

A review of the demographics of the two schools made it clear that Jumoke could not possibly have been the best management company to take over the Hartford neighborhood school.

Percent of Students not fluent in English Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 25% 0%

 

Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 39% 0%

 

Percent of Students with special education needs Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 11% 4%

 

To facilitate the expansion of his growing charter school company, Jumoke’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Sharpe, set up a holding company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc. and named himself the new company’s Chief Executive Officer.

Less than a year later, although the State Department of Education had no data about the level of success Jumoke/FUSE Inc. was having at Hartford’s Milner School, Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education gave Jumoke/FUSE, Inc. another no-bid contract, this time to take over the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.

In the meantime, Governor Malloy nominated Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke/FUSE Inc. to serve as a member of the State Board of Education — the very entity responsible for approving charter school applications and holding charter schools accountable.

And now the State Board of Education approved Jumoke/FUSE Inc.’s application to open the Booker T. Washington Charter School in New Haven.

But as tens of millions of public funds are diverted to this lucky company, the most interesting development of all may well be that while Jumoke/FUSE Inc. claims to be focused on operating schools in Connecticut,  their Booker T. Washington application failed to mention that just a few months ago, Jumoke/FUSE Inc. was able to get a contract from the Louisiana Recovery School District in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to take over a school there. [The Louisiana Recovery School District is the state entity that Paul Vallas ran before he made his way to Bridgeport].

Imagine, a charter school management company that has been given two no-bid contracts from the Malloy administration to run public neighborhood schools and still managed to get control of a school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

And although there is no data about how they are doing with their Connecticut schools or what time commitments they have made to their Baton Rouge school, not a single member of Malloy’s State Board of Education asked Jumoke/FUSE Inc. how it was going to have the time to open yet another charter school in Connecticut.

For more read Wait, What? blogs Friends in high places = lots of money! and The Malloy/Pryor Jumoke Charter School Gravy Train.

A very bad day for public education in Connecticut

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Yesterday was a dark day for public education in Connecticut.

Before voting to give away $80 to $100 million in taxpayer funds over the next five years to private companies that want to open four new charter schools in Connecticut, Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education voted unanimously to re-commit our state, our public schools and our students and teachers to the Common Core.

The State Board of Education’s resolution reads;

Resolved, That the State Board of Education stands firm in its belief that full and immediate implementation of the Common Core State Standards is necessary, and pledges its commitment to provide the necessary leadership, supports and resources for educators, students, and families, to ensure its success.

“….full and immediate implementation of the Common Core…” is not only inappropriate for our schools, teachers, student and parents, but it will cost Connecticut taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the next few years.

Since most communities don’t have these extra funds, the Malloy Administration’s out-of-control drive to immediately implement the Common Core will mean scarce public dollars are diverted away from subjects like art, music, physical education, social studies, and other key courses and programs as districts are forced to focus even more exclusively on teaching to the new and absurd Common Core testing program.

Meanwhile, the Common Core Task Force that Governor Malloy so proudly set up last month held its first meeting and members were told that they COULD NOT DISCUSS whether Connecticut should implement the Common Core Standards.  According to Malloy’s rules, the Task Force can only provide advice about how to fully implement the developmentally-inappropriate, standardized test driven education and privatization system that was begun by George W Bush and expanded by Barack Obama.

After re-endorsing the rush to implement the Common Core, Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education then engaged in a duplicitous maneuver to approve four new charter schools; another one for New Haven, two more for Bridgeport and one for Stamford.  Their approval came despite the fact that the local boards of education in Bridgeport and Stamford are OPPOSED to having new schools forced upon their communities.

This development comes at a time when the State Board of Education is well aware of the fact that many public schools in Connecticut don’t have the resources that they need to provide students with the quality education that is mandated by the Connecticut Constitution.

Malloy and the State Board of Education are already facing a major school funding lawsuit called the CCEJF case due to the state’s failure to provide sufficient funds for our existing schools.

But instead of fulfilling its legal and moral responsibility to Connecticut’s students, teachers, parents and society, the State Board of Education continued the Malloy administration’s program of privatizing Connecticut’s public schools.

As noted, the four new charter schools will cost taxpayers $80 to $100 million over the next five years.  This new charter school funding commitment comes despite a projected $1 billion state budget deficit in EACH OF THE THREE YEARS following this year’s gubernatorial election.

The message to Connecticut students, teacher and parents could not have been clearer.

The message to Connecticut cities, towns and taxpayers could not have been more direct.

In this time of unprecedented fiscal problems and despite Malloy’s failure to provide adequate funding for our existing public schools, Malloy and his administration are 100% committed to forcing the Common Core on our state along with his anti-public school privatization agenda.

Perhaps “Dan” Malloy truly believes in the corporate education reform industry’s political agenda or perhaps he has sold out to these corporations in return for the massive amount of campaign funds that they are distributing nationally.

But whatever his reasoning, it is worth repeating again and again… Dannel “Dan” Malloy has become the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the country.

Yesterday Malloy reiterated that key point yet again.

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